Simplifier: Creating a Stable Foundation of Technology

Mathieu Maury sends us a link to a very interesting (and minimalist) website called Simplifier. From the about-page:

Why do I simplify? How did I get started? What is the goal of this website?

Before developing any other skill, I enjoyed programming. To some extent, I still do; each program is its own universe, built from scratch, and the ability to create these on a whim is fascinating. However, the more time I spent programming, the more I became aware of the fact that software depends on hardware, and hardware is constantly changing. A program is not like a book or a painting; it requires constant upkeep and adaptation to remain in existence.

Initially, this drove me to learn about hardware, so that I could develop a stable platform to build upon; but this too was futile. Components inevitably fail, and there is no guarantee that replacements will be available in the coming years or decades. Essentially, permanent work cannot be achieved on a computer, as the hardware is fundamentally out of the control of the user. No matter what world is created inside of a program, its foundation will always rest on sand.

At this point I left programming entirely, and began searching for other meaningful work to do; but the problem had followed me! No matter what skill I intended to learn, I found that its permanence had been eroded by the chaos of technology. Materials were replaced by brands, techniques replaced by accessories, and craftsmanship replaced by consumerism. Clearly, this was something that needed to be fixed. Clearly, this is what I had to do.

Fundamentally, my work here is about creating a stable foundation of technology that is reliable, understandable, and practical for an individual to build for themselves. As of writing this, I believe I have done this on a conceptual level, but I intend to continue this work to the highest level of technology that I can achieve on my own. I encourage readers to utilize anything here which they find practical for whatever purpose they see fit, and to consider adopting a mindset of simplification in projects of their own.

Human Powered Neighbourhood: The Community Kitchen

It’s 2030 and the 14,000 residents of the first carbon neutral neighbourhood in the Netherlands gather at the communal fires, where they cook and eat together.

Read more: Human Powered Neighbourhood: The Community Kitchen.

Mental Resilience: The Art of Survival

“Following the 21st century radical changes on this planet, we have realized it was high time for us to give new contribution based on evidence from the siege of Sarajevo experience (1992-1996), to the urgent need of establishing a resilience module – for the sake of terrified individuals and unprepared societies alike. Extreme urban conditions produced a parallel civilization in which creativity was a basic necessity. The process of adaptation left no space for stagnation and helplessness. Work was the law of mental and physical survival.

“Working towards resilience kept people’s minds occupied – work eliminated thoughts that could destroy their motivation. It was necessary to establish a balance in the extreme urban conditions of life. This was done through creating peaceful, simple, normal situations, according to one’s personal needs. During the siege, the continuation of normal life in the city, the continuation of creativity, was as important as bread or medicine or water for all citizens of Sarajevo.”

“In this book we are not presenting a theory, but a real life evidence of an open mind potential to win in the face of the unknown, the new, the uncertain and the unthinkable. We believe that citizens who lived the Sarajevo siege present an example of hope for mankind facing serious threats and the changes so far unthinkable on this planet of ours.”

Read more and download the book: The Art of Survival. Extreme Conditions and Human Resilience: The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996, Suada Kapiç. Thanks to Jere Kuzmanic.

Generating Light from Darkness

Night-time power generation analogous to photovoltaics would be an enabling capability for applications such as lighting and wireless sensors. We demonstrate a low-cost power generation device based on thermoelectric generators where the cold side radiates heat to the cold of space by facing the night sky. The power generated is sufficient to maintain a LED at night, enabling battery-free off-grid lighting. [Read more…]

Self-Sufficiency Defies Common Sense

Many dream of financial self-sufficiency, but only few are prepared to go as far as Lasse Nordlund. In the early 1990s, Nordlund began an experiment living as self-sufficiently as possible. Eventually, he was able to sustain himself and his family with a budget of mere 30 to 50 euros per year, living in a small town in North Karelia, located in Eastern Finland, growing and preparing everything else from scratch, all by himself.

Nordlund is exceptional due to the depth of his experiment. What is also exceptional are the swarm of comments on the 2008 Helsingin Sanomat article covering the self-sufficient practices of Nordlund and his family. In little over a week, the article gathered 451 comments. A civic debate on radical self-sufficiency larger than this is hard to come by. Nordlund saved these comments for later research. Our study based on this material was published in the Kulttuurintutkimus journal in 2017.

Image: Lasse Nordlund, by Marko Ulvila (CC BY-SA 4.0)

[Read more…]

A “Dacha” for Everyone? Community Gardens and Food Security in Russia

Russia’s large-scale peri-urban community agriculture has proven to be a very resilient food system. In this guest post, Arthur Grimonpont investigates the phenomenon and wonders if it could be reproduced in other industrial nations, for example in France.

Image: Dacha settlement, Kursk Oblast, by Petr Magera (CC BY 2.0).

[Read more…]